Leading Middle East entrepreneurs share insights on innovation and stimulating private enterprise

Final day of Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2012 also identifies the key characteristics of the 'supernow' generation of continuous connectivity and interactivity

Industry leaders from across the Middle East discussed secrets of innovation and challenges to entrepreneurship on the final day of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2012. The Jordanian founder and CEO of Aramex, Fadi Ghandour, talked about the need to support entrepreneurs in the UAE and the key factors it takes to stimulate young people to be motivated enough to start up their own businesses.

Mr Ghandour said: "If we are talking about national wellbeing, we are talking about jobs and the power of entrepreneurship to create new wealth. And the concept of dignity we hear about in the Arab Spring is about having a good job, about independence of earning power and income, it gives the feeling of a sense of empowerment."

He pointed out that there is real motivation in the Arab world, with 26% of Arab youth wanting to start their own businesses, compared to just 4% in the US. However, he said, the education system is failing would-be entrepreneurs and must be improved.

Giving highlights from a special report on the Millennial Generation and Youth in the Middle East, Antonio Campo Dall'Orto, of Viacom International Media Networks, summarised the key characteristics and insights from 10 major US and global research studies conducted between 2009 and 2011.

He pointed to the fact that there are 2.4 billion Millennials (born 1981-2001) in the world today, accounting for 34% of the total population, and said their spending power is pushing $1 trillion. This new generation, Mr Dall'Orto added, is better educated, more self-esteemed, more demanding, more tech-savvy and more ambitious than previous generations.

Mr Dall'Orto described them as the 'supernow generation' and 'digital natives' who have continuous connection and interaction through new media channels.

Mohammad Gawdat, VP of Emerging Markets for Google said innovation needed to be fostered in young people across all sectors.

He said: "Everyone says it's easy for Google to be innovative but what about banks, telcos etc. My answer is there are several models of innovative and no one has an excuse not to be innovative.

"The reality is everyone is born innovative we just suppress it. It has nothing to do with how many dollars you spend ... very often it just takes passion and an idea."

A session entitled "New Waves", a series of presentations took a look at online businesses thriving in the Middle East.

Abed Agha, Founder of Vinelab talked about his company's mobile apps built for entertainment and media businesses such as NBC. The company has over 3.5 million users in the region. Ayham Gorani, CEO of AlphaApps business, talked about the i-pad app he is creating for children in the region, expected to launch in the next month in Arabic and English. Ayham spoke about how his team involved children in every stage of the product's R&D to ensure it is an intuitive learning tool.

Kamal Hassan, CEO of Innovation 360, chaired a wide-ranging session on innovation and entrepreneurship, focussing on challenging the status quo to make it happen. Panellists discussed the nature of innovation and the concept that it starts with failure and ends with growth.

"Innovation is a trial and error process," said Ihsan Jawad, founder of Zawya. "Failure is inevitable. Failure is necessary sometimes and be celebrated. If you want to be an innovator you have to fail fast and learn from some of your failures."

Speakers went on to discuss the three characteristics of innovative start-ups that succeed. Training, inspiration and experience were cited as important components to success.

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